Among the oldest known textiles, silk was produced in China as early as the mid-third millennium B.C.E. The discovery that silk filament produced by silkworms could be spun into yarns and woven into textiles was later attributed to a legendary Chinese empress who was worshipped as the Patron Diety of Weaving. This account of silk's origins is purely mythical, but it perhaps demonstrates an awareness of both the antiquity of silk production and its importance to Chinese culture. Sericulture, the term used to refer to all aspects of silk production from the raising of silkworms to the spinning of yarn and weaving of cloth, was subject to state control for many centuries, and it was forbidden to export silkworms or reveal the secrets of sericulture outside China. Bolts of silk textiles, produced to standard width and length, were used in ancient China as official trade goods, and were accepted in payment of taxes. Gradually a trade also developed in silk produced for private use and commerce.
Like wool, silk is a natural protein fiber. The larvae of the Bombyx mori moth, commonly known as silkworms, extrude silk fibers to form their cocoons and simultaneously secrete a gummy coating known as sericin. There are basically two kinds of silk: wild silk and cultivated silk. In both cases, silk is produced when silk moths lay eggs that hatch into caterpillars that eat either mulberry or oak leaves and then spin their cocoons, resulting in silk fibers. Spinning the cocoon takes about a month of the larva's life and yields about a mile of silk fiber, which can be spun into as much as 1,000 yards of silk yarn. Wild silkworms feed on oak leaves. Wild silk is harvested by picking cocoons left behind when the moths break free. This can result in a short and uneven staple fiber often labeled Tussah silk. Raw and Tussah silks are used in fabrics that have a more textured appearance than typical cultivated silk.
The majority of silk comes from a more controlled production process, known as sericulture, that extends over all stages of production, from the moths selected to lay eggs, to identification of the healthiest silkworms, to harvesting and processing of the best quality cocoons. Domestic silkworms are fed mulberry leaves. A selection of moths deemed the best breeding stock are allowed to break through the cocoons and become part of the next cycle of silk production. A majority of larvae are killed with dry heat to prevent the moth from breaking open the cocoons and thus retain the long natural filament characteristic of silk.
Salusso, Carol J. "Silk." Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Ed. Valerie Steele. Vol. 3. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. 182-185. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.
So, what is made with silk?
Japanese Silk Love Rope Wrist Cuffs
100% silk jock strap red
Etherea Silk Cuffs
Boa Pleasure Ties
Silk Binding Sash (7-ft.)
Fetish Fantasy Rope Whip